Special Report – Seeing the Invisible and Doing the Impossible

Therefore, ask yourself, “Using hard trends, how can I expect my own field or business to transform in the next few years?” And, equally important: “How can I give my current and future customers the ability to do what they can’t do today but would want to — if they knew it was possible?”

Your answers to these questions will help you start crafting strategies to transform how you sell, market, communicate, collaborate, and innovate.

Take your biggest problem and skip it: It’s not the real problem anyway – What is the biggest problem you’re facing right now? Whatever it is, you have to take that problem and skip it. Why? Because, that problem you just identified? It’s not your problem. In fact, the key to unraveling your organizations’ most intractable problems often lies in recognizing that the “problem” confronting you is not the real problem.

The real problem lies hidden behind the distraction of what you think the problem is.

This is what happened with Eli Lilly. To solve the big molecular puzzles they needed to create new pharmaceuticals and breathe life into their falling stock prices, they needed to hire at least another one thousand new PhD employees and they, frankly, did not have the money.

Lilly’s problem was, to put it bluntly, no money. Or was it?

By skipping the problem, they realized that their real challenge was solving molecular problems. So they created an online scientific forum called InnoCentive.com, where they posted difficult chemical and molecular problems and offered to pay anyone who could solve them. By making the site open to any scientist with an Internet connection and posting the problems in over a dozen languages, the company created a global, virtual R&D talent pool that soon found solutions to problems that had stumped its own researchers. As a result, they created new drugs, and Lilly survived — and thrived.

So, what about that biggest problem of yours? Like Eli Lilly, if you hold the problem up and look at it from different angles, you may well find that it is not your true problem and that rather than trying to solve it, you may fare far better by skipping it entirely.

Go opposite: Look where no one else is looking to see what no one else is seeing and do what no one else is doing – Often, when searching for the real problem you want to address, it’s not always easy to know where to look. One way to help tease that insight to the surface is to note where everyone else is looking and then look in the opposite direction.

Jeff Bezos looked at how Barnes & Noble had taken the traditional bookstore to a new level of size and substance, creating the modern superstore, and went the other way: he shrank the size to nothing and made it completely insubstantial. Likewise, Michael Dell looked at the PC industry’s reliance on retailers and did something else: direct marketing. Meanwhile, JetBlue looked at the hub-and-spoke system used by legacy carriers, and decided to do the opposite; launching their low-cost airline based on a point-to-point system. They profited while others suffered and went into bankruptcy. Many other companies, from Netflix to Starbucks to Volkswagen, did the opposite of what their competitors were doing … and they transformed their entire industry.

Therefore, one powerful way to trigger a flash foresight is to take note of where everyone else is looking, and then look in the opposite direction. So, ask yourself, “What is the current way of thinking regarding any subject in my industry?” then think the opposite to see new opportunities.

Redefine and reinvent: Identify and leverage your uniqueness in new and powerful ways – In the 21st Century, the one and only thing you can depend on is transformation. This means you can’t go backward, and you can’t stand still. You can’t rest on your laurels, and you can’t keep doing what you’ve always done — even if you do your best to keep doing it better. The only way to survive, let alone thrive, is to continuously reinvent and redefine.

Reinvent and redefine what, you ask? Everything.

Lee Iacocca and Hal Sperlich reinvented an entire marketplace when they redefined the family station wagon. Baby boomers needed a set of wheels with substantial family room but, Dodge realized, they did not want to look and act just like their parents. So, in November 1983, Chrysler introduced the Dodge Caravan, creating an entire automotive category, the minivan, that they would continue to dominate for the next quarter century. It was a stroke of flash foresight, based on the hard trend of baby boomers and their needs (along with the eternal insight that people don’t want to look or act like their parents).

But while companies like Chrysler redefined and reinvented, companies like Maytag and Toshiba did not and they paid the price for their complacency.

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